A ghoul feeding (www.lonelygym.blogspot.com)
The last article on ghouls focused on their biology and ecological role. Specifically, the ghoul was categorized as being necrophagous – that is, exclusively feeding on dead material (Lincoln, Boxshell and Clark, 1988). This article will review a few potential practical applications of the ghoul’s unique physiology.
The use of maggots, another group of necrophagous organisms, to disinfect or remove dead tissue from a wound raises the possibility of using ghouls in such a capacity. Could ghouls also provide such a biological function, cleaning infested or damaged tissue? Humans allowing ghouls access to the wounded and injured to clean necrotic or infested tissue may seem like a promising, symbiotic relationship. The humans get medical attention while the ghouls get to feed; however, there may be several logistical / biological problems.
First when maggots are used to clean dead or injured tissue they have been raised in a sterile environment. Ghouls are far from sterile, they are known to harbor a wide variety of microbial life both on their skin and within their bodies. Thus, their feeding, while cleaning up dead tissue may end up infecting healthy tissue with some nasty disease such as cholera or TB. Second, it is not known if a ghoul would have enough “restraint” to stop feeding on tissue once the damage or infected parts are consumed. Would the ghoul be in such a hunger-lust and continue feeding on healthy tissue once the injured tissue is consumed? How does one stop a ghoul from feeding? Third, the politics associated with such an endeavor may be a little too complex to successfully execute. Do ghouls want to participate in such a relationship? Who among a pack of ghouls gets to be a “cleaner?” This may be far more complicated to actually implement than to theoretically consider. Physically restraining, cleaning-up and forcing a ghoul to clean injured infected wounds would clearly be a violation of ghoul’s rights. Some may have no problem in utilizing ghouls in such a manner; however, they are sentient beings that are at a minimum closely related to Homo sapiens. While such questions and considerations are worthy of a detailed discussion within the realm of bioethics, it seems very unlikely that the services of ghouls would be employed in such a matter.
Ghoul Feeding by Senecal (www.deviantart.com)
A less intrusive means of capitalizing on some of the biological benefits of ghoul physiology is possibly sampling their skin or tissues. For example, there have been a number of instances in HPL’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath where ghouls are associated with having mould on their bodies or scraps of clothing. Since ghouls can freely travel between Earth and the Dreamlands (more on that in a future article) they may be bring species of mould and other organisms endemic to the Dreamlands to Earth (and visa-versa).
Invasive species, such as Eurasian watermilfoil, purple loosestrife, zebra mussels or snakehead fish, entering a new ecosystem can have devastating impacts on local economies and natural resources. However, microorganisms tend to be somewhat more cosmopolitan and the risk of negative impacts, while certainly not negligible, is considerably lower when compared to new species of plants or animals invading an Earth-based ecosystem. In addition, the fact that humans and ghouls have been interacting for decades, if not centuries, indicates that there is not particular disease that one group has that may have a virulent impact on the other. However, who knows if ghouls have contributed to some of the major outbreaks of the past, such as the Black Plague, or if they have merely taken advantage of such circumstances.
Pickman’s Ghouls Feeding by Sam Inabinet
Getting back to the mould associated with ghouls, it is possible that some new antibiotics may be identified from these species of fungi. The discovery of the production of a group of antibiotics by the Ascomycota fungi Penicillium (older text put Penicillium in the phylum Deuteromycota but newer sources place it in the Ascomycota) was one of the biggest medical discoveries in HPL’s time. Alexander Fleming discovered the antibiotic properties of substrate produced by Penicillium in 1928; however, mass production of this substrate – penicillin – did not occur until the early 1940s. While penicillin and other antibiotics have been very effective at combating bacterial infections, they have also contributed toward selectively favoring more antibiotic-resisting strains, thus reducing their effectiveness. Over time, this has resulted in super-strains of bacteria that are highly resistant to practically all types of antibiotics including penicillin. For example, as recently as February 2015 the “super-bug” carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) has been reported to plague hospitals.
A culture of the fungus Penicillium (www.lookfordiagnosis.com)
Called “the nightmare bacteria” CRE is resistant to almost all known antibiotics and approximately half the patients who contract this bacteria die. Given the issues with antibiotic resistant bacteria, scientists are always looking for new, naturally producing substances that can be used to combat infectious bacteria, particularly those that are fairly common such as Staphylococcus and Escherichia coli. Is it possible that species of mould growing on ghouls, endemic to the Dreamlands, may produce a new suite of antibiotics that can be used to combat these “super bugs?”
Ghoul physiology may have other potential applications such as the genetics associated with their particularly strong immune system; their high resistance against almost all diseases may aid in the production of vaccines or gene therapy against many of the diseases that continue to plague mankind. Such biological resources may also contribute toward future strategies in cancer treatment.
A Ghoul (www.ladynorthstar.tumblr.com)
While the ghoul’s biological resources may have a variety of applications to benefit humanity, it is very unlikely that they would be willing to contribute to such endeavors. Ghouls are either solitary or organized in loose packs or tribes. Very little is known about their societal or political structure and what is known tends to more associated with ghouls in the Dreamlands rather than on Earth. In addition, to be blunt, what is in it for the ghoul to help humanity? They appear to be doing fine as a species (or sub-species) and in spite of increasing rates of embalming and cremation around the globe. There never seems to be a depletion of carrion for the ghoul. As one person cited on the comments (I believe it was Phil Smith) ghouls appear to be attracted to war zones, areas of civil unrest and communities suffering from wide-spread disease, where there is a high number of dead. Unfortunately, I think ghouls will always have a fresh supply of food due to the actions of humanity.
Next time we will initiate a discussion on the Dunwich Horror. Thank you – Fred.
A Ghoul by Ryan Lovelock (www.ryanlovelock.blogspot.com)